Yahoo To Ban Bidding On Competitor Trademarks To Stop Comparison Advertising

Yahoo No Longer Allow Bidding On Trademarked Terms on our SEW Forums has news that Yahoo will no longer be allowing companies to purchase ads linked to the trademarks of their competitors. From what's being sent to advertisers:

On March 1, 2006, Yahoo! Search Marketing will modify its editorial guidelines regarding the use of keywords containing trademarks. Previously, we allowed competitive advertising by allowing advertisers to bid on third-party trademarks if those advertisers offered detailed comparative information about the trademark owner's products or services in comparison to the competitive products and services that were offered or promoted on the advertiser's site.

In order to more easily deliver quality user experiences when users search on terms that are trademarks, Yahoo! Search Marketing has determined that we will no longer allow bidding on keywords containing competitor trademarks.

OK, I haven't had a chance to talk with Yahoo yet, but here are few key points from what I see so far:

  • The policy doesn't seem to completely ban bidding on terms that are also trademarks, which is good. I won't spin out all the long explanations about why that is good, as I've done in the past. The short answer is that some products and services simply cannot be adequately advertised if you can't bid on a term that also is a trademark. Try selling "used ipods" if you can't buy the term "ipod," for example. Or look at the trouble this person is having about helping to advertise Ferrari driving experiences without being able to buy ads linked to that term on Google in Europe.
  • In the US (where the Yahoo policy is coming into effect), the courts have so far upheld the right to link ads to terms that might also be trademarks. That's why Google allows you to buy ads linked to these terms in the US. You simply cannot use the terms in your ads. In Europe, you can't use the terms as trigger words or in copy. Google's full policy is here.
  • Betcha I know what's prompted the move. Yahoo has been doing more and more work to attract big brand advertisers to link non-search campaigns back to search. The problem is, that means other competing brands can capitalize on this traffic. Mazda Taps Into Pontiac TV & Search Ads Again covers more about this. An easy way to stop your big brand advertisers you've partnered with from being walked over this way is to ban "comparison" ads linked to their campaigns.

Need more history on search ads and trademark disputes? The Legal: Trademarks section of the Search Topics area available to Search Engine Watch members has lots and lots of information.

Want to comment or discuss? Visit our SEW Forum thread, Yahoo No Longer Allow Bidding On Trademarked Terms.